Stones among Europe’s top central defenders, believes Everton boss Martinez

Everton manager Roberto Martinez has hailed John Stone as one of the best ball-playing central defenders in European football, the Liverpool Echo has reported.

The youngster has established himself as an important member of the first-team at Goodison Park in the last 12 months, playing regularly alongside Phil Jagielka. He has even earned three caps for England, most notably in the 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying victory away to Switzerland in September.

Stones was brought to Everton from Barnsley in January 2013, when he became David Moyes’ final signing as manager. In his time on Merseyside he has made 62 appearances, and has been widely acknowledged as one of England’s most promising defenders.

He has been in strong form in recent weeks since his return from injury, improving the defensive record of a side that has struggled to keep clean sheets throughout the season. Two shut-outs in a row against Crystal Palace and rivals Liverpool have been followed by a narrow failure to take something at Chelsea, where they conceded late to lose 1-0.

And this form has prompted Martinez to offer significant praise. He said: “He got to the point now where he is experienced and needs to be challenged on the pitch. He now needs to get to experience a lot of big events, 100 starts in the league and to see him grow and constantly improve.

“But to see John, at such a young age, performing with that calmness and with that know-how at his age makes him one of the best ball playing centre-halves you will see in European football.”

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